Bollywood is the informal name given to the popular Mumbai based film industry in India. It is one of the biggest film industries in the world and ranked as No 1 in film production. Bollywood and the other major cinematic hubs (Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu) contributed towards making the Indian film industry the largest in the world in terms of the number of films produced.

Bollywood's film production center is a government-owned studio facility known as 'Film City,' in the northern suburbs of Mumbai. The word Bollywood was created by blending Bombay (the city now officially called Mumbai) and Hollywood, the famous center of the United States film industry. Bollywood started functioning from 1911, when 'Raja Harishchandra', the first silent Indian feature film, was released by D P Phalke.

Silent cinema was manipulated by artists to create a truly international art, one which had none of the language barriers that emerged with the introduction of sound. In India, especially, being a land of numerous languages, silent cinema made its way across boundaries into the hearts of millions. Sound came to Indian cinema in 1931 with the blockbuster 'Alam Ara' (dir. Ardeshir Irani), including song and dance as part of the storytelling.

Bombay Talkies, one of the first studios, was launched by producer Himansu Rai and actress Devika Rani. Devika Rani starred in Raiís first talkie, 'Karma' (1933) and became India's first major female star.

The 1950s proved to be the golden age of Indian cinema. Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor and their beautiful leading ladies, Nargis, Madhubala, Vyjayanthimala and Meena Kumari literally earned the status of gods and goddesses in the hearts of the Indian populace. The age also yielded some of the best directors such as Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan, Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy who produced some extraordinary and powerful films, such as 'Devdas' (1955, dir. Bimil Roy), 'Pyasa' ('The Thirsty One', 1957, dir. Guru Dutt), 'Sri 420' ('Mr 420', 1955, dir. Raj Kapoor), 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' ('Paper Flowers', 1959, dir. Guru Dutt) and 'Awaara' ('The Rogue', 1951, dir. Raj Kapoor).

The film 'Neecha Nagar' in 1947 gained international repute when presented at the Cannes Film festival. The first Indian film nominated for an Oscar is Mehboob Khan's 'Mother India' in 1957.

Bollywood films are usually musicals. Bollywood films are being shown in American and British theaters on a more and more frequent basis. Bollywood owns large studios and is capable of making big budget movies as well as commercial and art films.

Just as Hollywood has its Oscars, Bollywood has its Filmfare Awards.

In the last decade, the taste and needs of the filmgoing public have undergone a sea change. The Bollywood directors are churning out films that are supposed to cater to the new audience but it remains to be seen whether films that match the old classics will be produced.

Updated on 16th December, 2005


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